Joyce’s concerns with character-focused, psychological fiction unfold simultaneously with his plot lines in order to render his final effect of epiphany. While Poe’s preoccupation of a story culminating in a “singularity of effect” seems similar to epiphany, Joyce’s moment of illumination occurs more cerebrally within the character than the more emotionally-charged endings advocated by Poe. Joyce takes Poe’s theory and complicates it by maintaining a closer “third person” protagonist whose thought processes unfold concurrently with the Aristotelian/Freytag models of plot to achieve his epiphany. In “Araby” and “The Dead,” Joyce uses plot chronologically, determining and fueling the action with the interior processes and choices of the protagonist combined with external obstacles, to mine the greatest depth and breadth possible in the ending’s epiphany.

The third person protagonist’s preoccupations in “Araby” appear immediately following the exposition and description of setting in the beginning, with the rising action. His infatuation has him fantasizing about his friend’s sister often and the line, “I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes” renders the simple plot one of a “hero’s journey.” We know what he wants is lofty, out of reach. The rare opportunity of the two characters meeting in the next scene, an external event brought about by the dead priest, incites the protagonist to make a choice: he gives into temptation and willingly takes on an obstacle, Araby, for the chance at winning his love. Thus, plot and character unfold with each propagating the other to the fullest extant of the narrative moment.

Joyce uses external obstacles in the following scenes regarding the protagonist getting permission to go to Araby, raising the stakes first with his uncle’s casual dismissal, then with the time passing, and then with the slowness of the train to diminish the chances of the protagonist reaching the bazaar and drawing out suspense for the reader. The external circumstances change the protagonist internally, as after all his obstacles have nearly been overcome, the emptiness of the setting makes him timid, even disillusioned. “Remembering with difficulty why I had come” he makes an effort to achieve his last obstacle, buying something to win his love. The climax occurs quickly in which his disillusionment increases and causes him to decline, giving up all he had been striving for in one instant. The brief falling action further informs us of his futile thoughts and feelings as he leaves the bazaar, the description of his internal desolation heightened with the external bleakness of the lights going off, all building to the ending’s epiphany, “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity: and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.” Joyce’s epiphany complicates Aristotle’s resolution of a protagonist’s recognition from ignorance to knowledge with a much deeper level of insight and impact, by choosing the organic, concurrent evolution of character and plot throughout the story.

Similarly, “The Dead” follows the unfolding of Gabriel’s inner obstacles as he is faced with external forces, leading to his revelation at the end and inevitably so, as Joyce makes careful choices causing the plot and character to evolve together so that the most illuminating epiphany will be achieved. Joyce uses the encounters with the three women at the party to reveal different character aspects of Gabriel as the rising action occurs chronologically. First he questions Lily and makes her feel uncomfortable, showing his ineptitude at relating to those of another class and then forcing money on her. Miss Ivors corners him, a second obstacle, and he gets angry at having nothing to say about her passionate cause, revealing his reluctance to live a full, involved life.  His failure at attaining the final obstacle, intimacy with his wife, propels the direction of the action even further inward, as Gabriel must face his true self and the “deadness” of his soul.

Discovering that his wife was thinking of a former lover and not him in the climactic moment determines the nature of the epiphany that must come at the end. The revelation triggers a surfacing of internal emotions, and as Joyce’s point-of-view allows us full access to them, the suspense continues after the climax and throughout the story of his wife’s lover as the falling action ensues. His wife asleep, Gabriel is forced to face himself alone, the hero at the end of his tragic journey. While his thoughts and realizations bring about sadness, as the narrator states, “The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree” his approach to the epiphany is a more intellectual one. He sees his life as passionless. The mounting emotions combine with the rational revelations to bring a spiritual element to the resounding epiphany, “His soul swooned softly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon the living and the dead.”

These emotional and logical internal processes combined culminate in a spiritual illumination of human experience, exemplifying the potential of the epiphany as a craft device. The intent of achieving such an effect at the end informs every choice in both “Araby” and “The Dead,” along with the evolution of the close third person point-of-view. Without this approach, we would not be granted the clear insight into the thoughts and emotions needed to follow how the character’s inner state drives the plot. As the external obstacles are faced, so the internal follow, and the subsequent choices made by the protagonist propel the story and character toward the epiphany. Our ability to comprehend the epiphany determines solely on this ability to follow the character’s continuous internal process from the beginning with each obstacle faced. With such a focus on character, it may appear at times that Joyce’s focus on plot is obscured, but without use of his specific manner of external events revealing character and character choices subsequently driving plot, the story dependent on epiphany at the end would utterly fail. Joyce gives us a well-devised map, and we are never lost.

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